While the Falcons are probably winding down big-time in free agency, they still have several free agents from the team who are out on the open market and free to sign anywhere. Here’s a look at those players, and some thoughts on whether any of them are likely to return to the Falcons in 2017.
The Falcons cut ties with Tyson Jackson after three years of solid run defense and not much else, with the last piece of the frustrating 2014 free agency class that featured Jon Asamoah, Paul Soliai, Devin Hester and T-Jax headed out the door.
At 30, the former #3 overall pick is what he is: A run stuffer who can occasionally deliver you a pressure or two. He might fare better as an end in a 3-4, but nobody’s giving Jackson a starting gig in 2017. He might be best off settling for a short-term, prove-it deal in a different system.
Babs still put some good games on tape in 2017, particularly in the postseason, and he’s the kind of player any team would like in their locker room. He is 35 years old, however, and clearly approaching the end of his long and distinguished career. Chances are he’ll have to settle for a short-term deal as a reserve, either with Atlanta if they don’t pick up anyone else at defensive tackle, or a team like Cincinnati that could use DT depth.
If he returns to the NFL and doesn’t hang up his cleats, Chester feels like the closest thing on this list to a lock to be signed. He started a full set of 19 games last year, played his usual brand of alright pass protection and quality run blocking, and is still good enough to start for several NFL teams. The Falcons may wind up bringing him back if the numbers work out.
The veteran tight end is coming off a major injury and is an awesome dude (if a most-hated one), but is a one-dimensional pass catching tight end who is 32 years old. Teams still need pass catchers at the position and Tamme is a sure-handed one, but he doesn’t seem likely to be guaranteed a starting job anywhere he goes. The Los Angeles Rams would be an ideal fit, as Tamme could provide a security blanket for Jared Goff while young tight ends like Tyler Higbee and Temmarick Hemingway develop.
Death, taxes, and a Sean Weatherspoon injury. The former Falcons first round pick simply can’t stay healthy at this point, and when he’s on the field, the athleticism that once made him such an intriguing linebacker has diminished. He can be an extreme stopgap starter for a team with young linebackers, or a reserve and locker room presence, but he’s not going to field too many offers in that vein. There’s a small chance he could return to Atlanta if they don’t further upgrade linebacker.
I doubt Freeney has any interest in signing with a team until the summer, but the 37 year old pass rusher and potential future Hall of Famer can still bring the heat and won’t lack for interested teams. If the Falcons sink a first or second round pick into an edge rusher, he’ll likely wind up elsewhere.
The speedy veteran linebacker was a boost to the team’s linebackers corps in 2015, but last year he wasn’t much of a factor for a Falcons squad that got a lot out of De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones. He can catch on as a reserve and special teamer, but it likely won’t be with Atlanta.
Goldson was once a big-ticket free agent, but last year, he chiefly backed up the team’s young, talented safeties, getting a little run when Kemal Ishmael went down with an injury that cost him the rest of the year. Like Wheeler, he’ll get some consideration as a reserve and special teamer, and if he doesn’t get an offer this summer, he’ll be on Atlanta’s short list if injury strikes during the season.
An athletic project who got a lot of love his rookie year, Starr never got on the field much in Atlanta thanks to development and injury. Some team should take a flier on the 26 year old with the flowing locks, and like ‘Spoon, he could return if the Falcons don’t address linebacker in the coming weeks via free agency or the draft.